The Red Badge of Courage Questions and Answers
by Stephen Crane

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What are some conflicts in The Red Badge of Courage? What type of conflict is each? 

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Even as Henry's story begins we sense a personal conflict within him as to the nature of war and the reality of it. He thinks of battles as "things of the past," yet everywhere around him there is the news of the war he tries to grasp, to process, in some way against his instincts. A less internalized conflict is the fact that he "burned to enlist," but his mother, understandably, doesn't want him to. When he tells her that he has enlisted, his mother in sorrow covers her face with a blanket.

But then, his mother's own internal conflict over Henry's going to war is that in spite of having wished that he not enlist, she must support him completely when he does. Her telling him about the socks she has knitted for him, and the description of her having packed his best shirts, have an unbearably sad quality as if emblematic not only of a mother's inevitable parting from a son under any conditions, but now her grief under these worse circumstances, when she has no way of knowing if he'll be dead soon.

Even before this Crane has shown us a conflicted image of the war apart from Henry's own imaginings. We are told that the "twisted news" of some great battle is announced when an "enthusiast" rings the bell of the church. As central as the war is to the thoughts of everyone, the concrete actuality of it is veiled, hidden. War is treated, in some sense, generically in Crane's narrative, rather than with the specificity of other historical novels such as Tolstoy's War and Peace. An underlying message is the incomprehensible nature of war. Crane's descriptions, once Henry is on the battlefield, show that in war the ordinary soldier has little idea of what is actually taking place on the levels of planning by the officers. This disconnect might not in itself necessarily be thought of as "conflict," but it is related to each soldier's reflexive wish to serve, to fight, and the simultaneously inevitable human tendency to question and to be afraid.

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The Red Badge of Courage takes place during the American Civil War. The Union and Confederate armies are battling against each other. That is one conflict, and the type would be a broad-scale man vs. man conflict.

Another conflict type in Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage is a man vs. self conflict. I would say that this is the main conflict type that appears throughout most of the book. Stephen Crane presents readers with the character of Henry. His main conflict is the warring emotions within himself. His survival instinct tells Henry that standing and fighting while getting shot at is ridiculous. On the other hand, Henry also wants to prove to himself and others that he is a man and a brave soldier.

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